Can I be frank?
I hate standing at the edge of the stage after a show. The Leo in me loves the validations and affirmations from patrons of the arts…but the introvert in me wants to retreat to the nearest exit and allow the actors to relish in a well-deserved spotlight.
But that’s not the real reason I hate it.
I hate standing at the edge of the stage after a show because it’s usually about 15 minutes worth of empty promises given by well-meaning people. It’s not intentional (sometimes) but it has become a specific act that leaves me somewhat empty and unexcited.
“Girl, next time you do a show I’m going to be one of your biggest sponsors. Call me!”
“Ms. Jones, you are so talented. We need to get this on the road! I’m serious.”
“Listen, I need someone like you to be part of our organization. Call my secretary!”
“I want you to do some workshops to show people how it’s done. I’ll call you.”
“Danita these ticket prices are way too low. I’d pay double to see this!”
Before, I used to get really excited. I would save the business cards and make a sponsor list. I’d organize my kitchen table to set up a makeshift office space. I’d make a cup of tea and send emails and make phone calls to these “promisers” who vowed to me that my art, my actors, my work, was worth them financially backing for other people to see.
And my phone calls would go unreturned, my emails would go unanswered, my inquiries would be met with double talk, and my meetings would be cancelled or conveniently rescheduled….then cancelled again; and I would be left, again, coming out of pocket, again, relying on the hope that I would have enough people to buy tickets, again, to just about break even, again, to find myself at the end of the show—receiving accolades and promises (sometimes from the same set of people) on how they will be there to help the next time…again.
And the promises would be empty….you guessed it…again.
I’m not the only artist who deals with this.
After a while, as an artist, you get downright skeptical of people’s promises. And you go from smiling wide to straining not to roll your eyes.
But you know what’s funny?
I get it.
I hate it, but I get it. There’s an enthusiasm that comes when you see good art. It’s amazing feeling isn’t it? You walk away from an amazing showcase of artistic expression and it made you want to do something. You came out of the theater/art gallery/music hall/dance studio and decided that you must advocate for the underdog, start a school, feed the homeless, and you want this show, this movie, this play, this singer, this visual artist, or this dance company, to be the backdrop for your newest endeavor.
You’re standing there applauding vigorously, with ideas flooding the right hemisphere of your brain, and the only thing you can think to do is run up to the singer/director/writer/visual artist/choreographer, or even take your declarations to your social media page, and declare in a loud voice,
“I’m going to DO something!”
Or as I like to call it…
The “I should buy a boat!” Syndrome
The origin of this made up syndrome is based on a rather brief shtick of Chris Kattan in one of my favorite silly movies, “Corky Romano.” In it, Kattan plays ‘Corky’, an off-beat, black-sheep of a mafia family, who gets put undercover at the FBI to try and keep his father out of jail. During one hilarious scene, when trying to impress his fellow co-workers, he accidentally gets into a batch of cocaine when trying to test its grade. While completely high off of the drug, and unbeknownst to his colleagues, he’s thrust into a room full of kindergarten students to make a speech.
At one particular moment during his nonsensical ranting he yells into the microphone, “I should buy a boat!”
The declaration is ludicrous, as it has no correlation to anything he had previously said. The outburst even gains heavy side-eyes from the teacher and his adorable audience members.
But because he was high…buying a boat seemed like a brilliant idea.
This syndrome ails some of you. You get so enthralled with how the art makes you feel that sometimes you scream to the rooftops about how you are going to help the artist change the world…when in actuality…you’re just high off of experiencing the art itself.
To be clear, artists love giving you that feeling. We love changing the world through the art. We love challenging our audience members to do great and powerful things. We relish in the fact that you walked away from us a changed person…
…but, and remember you said I could be frank, we hate your “high,” empty promises.
We are very aware that by the time you drive home, post about it on social media for a few days, tell some of your friends about it (or maybe you find out how much it reeeeaaaaaalllly costs to produce that thing or that person you love so much) you eventually move on.
…until your next high.
Rinse and Repeat
And just like in real life, your “highs” eventually hurt others in the long run.
Let me guide you through solving this problem in two easy steps:
First, be honest. Admit that you “I should buy a boat” a lot of artists because they’re your friends or aquaintences. There are countless albums you don’t own, multiple movies you haven’t seen, plays and showcases you’ve never bought tickets to, and sponsorships you’ve fallen through on, all because you know the person.
“But Danita, I can’t support EVERY single thing my EVERY person does.”
You’re absolutely right! So…you know…stop promising you will.
Secondly, and this is probably the most important, recognize when you’re “high.” I know you mean well, but just acknowledge the fact that what you’re feeling is directly proportionate to what you just experienced. Just tell your favorite artist that they were/are awesome, give them a hug, and go home. Then, take some quiet time and think it through…actually think it through.
You may find that you have more resources than you thought…or none at all. This way, you can contact the person with an actual plan.
If you choose to run to the front of the event arena and shout how you’re going to financially support them for the rest of whatever they do, do it.
Don’t just state that you are going to purchase that album online.
Invest in it.
Don’t just declare that you are going to get season tickets to next year.
Don’t just post that you are going to acquire that painting to match your living room. Commission it.
Don’t just proclaim that you are going to underwrite the next tour.
Don’t just promise that you are going to pre-order their book.
And no, I’m not telling you that you can’t shout your support from the rooftops…
I’m just saying that next time you say you’re going to “buy a boat”…
“So, this is just a round about way of telling me to put my money where my mouth is.”
You know I’m right.